_Technology Use: A Generational Breakdown

For as long as smartphones have been around, society loves to rant about Millennials and their technology-obsessed behavior. What might surprise society (and its stereotypical claims), is that recent research has shown older generations aren’t too far off from younger generations with digital habits. 

Generations are split up by a range of years in which they were born. Each generation is said to have generalized characteristics, values and beliefs shaped by political and cultural events and shifts that went on during their childhood into adulthood.

The reason it’s so important to understand the psychological differences in ethics and beliefs among generations is because right now, there are three main generations in the workforce. Three generations in the workplace opens the door for the three age groups to challenge each others’ views and, together, establish norms for the future workplace, especially technologically speaking. 

With that, it’s important to learn about the basic beliefs of the majority of the generations and why they have those beliefs because it can unveil an understanding to why different generations have different views and practices with technology used in their day-to-day lives. 

To summarize the majority (adult) generations of 2019 in the US:

Baby Boomers

Born: 1946-1964

Age: 54-72

Size: 72 million

Overview: Post WWII, civil rights movements and sexual revolution. Highest divorce rates and second marriages in history. Strong belief in equal rights and equal opportunity. Grew up being promised “The American Dream” as children and strived for it as adults, which made them be seen as materialistic and greedy. 

Purchasing Habits: Most likely to make in-store purchases, if the store doesn’t have it, they’re more likely to go to the store again later rather than purchase online

Gen X

Born: 1965-1980

Age: 38-53

Size: 66 million 

Overview: End of the Cold War, dual income families and single parents, women in the workforce. Technological era begins. Independent and value work-life balance. Skeptical of Boomer views. The “forgotten” middle generation. Always overpowered in size and opinions by the Boomers, and now by the Millennials.

Purchasing Habits: Most likely to purchase on a laptop or desktop computer; generation that uses laptops/PCs the most

Millenials

Born: 1981-1996

Age: 22-37

Size: 73 million

Overview: Digital media world filled with public tragedies; 9/11, school shootings and terrorist attacks. Typically grew up with divorced parents that sheltered them to protect them from the dangerous reality and in turn, they want to “change the world” of all its wrongs. First generation of kids to have their own schedules; always kept busy while growing up. 

Purchasing Habits: Most likely to purchase on their smartphone or desktop computer; generation most likely to purchase on a smartphone

Each generation has adopted technology into their daily lives in different ways and at different paces.

For Boomers, media technology was never all-consuming as they were growing up because up until the late 60s – early 70s, televisions weren’t even developed. As the first black and white tvs made it into homes in the early 70s, media technology made its way into the lives of Gen Xers, followed by fax machines, cell phones, computers, The Internet… the list goes on. Gen Xers have been around to see the technological era be born and evolve into the manifesto it has become today.

In turn, Millennials grew up with (more) advanced technology since they were little kids, the most influential being the evolution of the cell phone. Regardless when eras started using digital technology and why they started using it, all generations alike are adopting it into their everyday lives more than each generation might assume. 

According to Pew Research Center, in 2019 in the US, the percent of adults per generation say they… 

Own a smartphone:

 

Millennials 93%

Gen Xers 90% 

Baby Boomers 68%

 

 

Own a tablet:

 

Millennials 53%

Gen Xers 55%

Baby Boomers 52%

Use social media:

 

Millennials 86%

Gen Xers 76%

Baby Boomers 59%

 

 

 

While Millennials remains the generation with the highest percentage of smartphone owners, owning tablets has shifted to have similar use among all three generations.

Since 2012, Millennial presence on social media has stayed relatively the same, whereas Gen Xers and Boomers have increased presence on social media by at least ten percent.

Facebook, the leading social media platform, appears to be the only social media platform used by a majority of all three generations: 84% of Millennials, 74% of Gen Xers and 60% of Boomers. Boomer Facebook use has gone up 17% since 2012, while Gen Xer use has only gone up 7% and Millennial use has only gone up 2%.

Although the Boomer Generation isn’t the leading generation for most things technological, they are the generation that has adopted technology the most progressively over the years, while Gen Xers and Millennials show little-to-no change in technological use over time. 

 

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